Gov. Ralph DLG Torres has not yet officially decided on the Commonwealth Utilities Corp.’s standing request to declare a state of emergency over a reported water shortage, a declaration that would be the first of its kind in CNMI history.
Torres earlier indicated that decision would be made yesterday, Monday, but the Torres administration yesterday was still weighing the “legality and feasibility” of the CUC board’s request, Saipan Tribune learned.
The exact details of such a declaration has not been made immediately clear, and if this would allow a circumventing of procurement regulations to address water issues. Torres earlier said he would be learning what “the declaration entails and what is their solution.”
Torres reiterated yesterday morning that he would be calling on and meeting with CUC on the proposed declaration of emergency for water yesterday.
Asked why was the emergency necessary, Torres said that according statistics provided by CUC, “there were $15 million loss [of water] as of last week” in water.
“That’s critical,” he told reporters yesterday. “And I have asked them to work diligently and give me a report on the water situation here in the CNMI. Our ultimate goal is to get a [reverse osmosis] system so people can start drinking water. I have asked them to do it by phases, or grids, or zones. But if we are getting this loss, this 50 percent loss [of water], it’s not feasible to bring an RO system when we can’t even fix our own system of water leakage.”
Torres said he has asked CUC’s water task force to “prioritize” the water leakage, reportedly at over 70 percent “unaccounted for” water.
CUC board member from Tinian, Eric San Nicolas, made the motion to request Torres to issue an emergency declaration immediately after the board emerged from a three-hour executive session on Friday.
The motion was to “request from the Governor’s Office to make an emergency declaration as a result of the cost to address the state of the water infrastructure on Saipan and the financial inability of CUC to fund that cost which gives CUC the eminent inability to provide adequate, 24-hour water supply for the residents of Saipan that affects the health, safety, and welfare of the residents of Saipan,” San Nicolas said.
The CUC board, with David Sablan absent, voted to approve the motion.
The CNMI government has declared monthly a state of emergency for CUC’s power infrastructure that allows, among others, the CNMI governor to reprogram funds, suspend procurement laws or rules to address the emergency, and allows CUC to retain staff not U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
CUC has been under this state of emergency for more than 10 years now.